Ktismatics

30 March 2012

Neuropath by Bakker, 2009

Filed under: Fiction, Psychology — ktismatics @ 8:14 pm

Samantha frowned. “The Argument?”

“That’s what we called it.”

“So, what was it?”

“Remember how I said science had scrubbed the world of purposes? For some reason, whenever science encounters intention or purpose in the world, it snuffs it out. The world as described by science is arbitrary and random. There’s innumerable causes for everything, but no reasons for anything.” …He leaned back, holding her gaze. “You do realize that every thought, every experience, every element of your consciousness is a product of various neural processes? We know this because of cases of brain damage. All I have to do is press a coat hanger past your eye, wriggle it around a little, and you’d be utterly changed.”

*   *   *

The brain uses sensory inputs to generate a continuously-updated representation of the world. There are various ways of tricking the brain into seeing and hearing things that aren’t really there: sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation, drugs, direct manipulation of the neurons. Does our susceptibility to induced hallucinations persuade us that our brains are always hallucinating, that our representations of the world are an illusion, that we imagine the world we see and hear?

The brain also generates a continuously-updated representation of its own activity. When I think that I’m making a decision, I might only be tuning in to a slightly-delayed internal representation of synaptic firings that have already taken place in my brain, outside of my conscious awareness. If that’s the case, then do I regard decision-making as an illusion, even if it’s my own brain that’s firing the synapses? If I came to the conscious realization that all of my decisions have already been made by my brain outside of my conscious awareness, would my brain then start making different “decisions” or stop making them altogether? If, conversely, I lost my self-consciousness, so that my conscious internal representation of my brain’s ongoing activities were removed, would my brain start making different decisions or stop making them altogether?

Suppose goals, plans, and intentions are all illusions, because everything we do or think is caused. Would awareness that our future orientation is an illusion cause us to change our goals, plans, and intentions — which, after all, are only illusions anyway? Conversely, if we are stripped of the illusion of making goals, plans, and intentions, would we think or act differently?

Suppose, by tweaking our brains in the appropriate places, we could be made to hate what we love, to lust after what we fear. Would we conclude that all of our untweaked emotional responses are illusory?

If we realized that our appetites were hardwired by evolution, would we conclude that our inhibitions have no evolutionary purpose and no hardwiring and thus could be disregarded completely? Would we arrive at this conclusion even if we had already become persuaded that deciding not to satisfy a desire to fuck or kill someone isn’t really a conscious decision at all, but is actually caused by our brains’ unconscious activity?

I would answer “no” to each of these questions; the characters in Neuropath evidently answer “yes.”

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57 Comments »

  1. I see that Shaviro wrote glowingly about Neuropath in this post from December 2008. (He must have had an advance copy, since the book is copyrighted 2009.) It’s an interesting piece: Shaviro begins by asserting that Neuropath offers an airtight demonstration of The Argument, but then midway through he says that the demonstrations aren’t really about human essence but about power and the way it can fuck up people’s lives. I agree. The neurosurgeries performed on the characters radically alter their brains, and thus their minds, and thus their actions, but these alterations in cause-effect cascades don’t necessarily make a case for the idea that human intentionality is an illusion. The surgeries yield horrifying results, which fit the thriller genre to which Neuropath decidedly belongs. But as I wrote in the post, the surgeries don’t really address The Argument and its various implications.

    Per The Argument, self-consciousness deludes us into thinking that everything we “intend” or “decide” to do is actually caused by unconscious and thus irresistible brain activity. Therefore, putting The Argument to the test surgically requires either (1) eliminating the intentionality feature of self-consciousness, or (2) rewiring self-consciousness so to that it becomes aware of the causal sequences already taking place in the brain. If the experimental subject begins to think and act differently following surgery, then we could infer that intentionality was having some impact on the brain’s cause-effect sequences before it was short-circuited. This would suggest strongly that intentionality is not an illusion, since it has empirically demonstrable effects. Conversely, if short-circuiting intentional self-consciousness has no discernible effect on the subject’s thoughts and actions, then arguably it is unreal. Of course if subjects acted the same before and after the neurosurgery, then The Argument would be supported at the expense of losing all of the horrific shit that pushes the book’s thriller plot along. That the characters do think and act differently — and entertainingly so — after the surgery suggests that The Argument fails the empirical test posed in the plot.

    Comment by ktismatics — 31 March 2012 @ 10:00 pm

  2. Mark “k-punk” Fisher wrote an article about Neuropath in the most recent issue of Incognitum Hactetus, which you can download here. The plot of the novel centers on Neil the neurosurgeon’s efforts to demonstrate to his old college buddy Thomas that The Argument is true; i.e., that human thoughts and actions are caused rather than intended and willed. Fisher points out that, by having a motive for his actions, Neil is denying The Argument that he’s trying to prove. I agree. Even though Bakker has Neil disavow the motive of proof, he still says that he wants his friend Paul to experience life stripped of the illusion of self — which is also a motive. The whole novel is heavily plotted, with Paul trying to figure out who is responsible for the neural mayhem. I.e., Paul’s motive to unravel the mystery drives the story: the structure of the novel itself presumes willful pursuit of the characters’ intentions.

    But Fisher doesn’t pursue the possibility that The Argument is false; like Shaviro, he seems to accept that Neil proves his case. Further, he contends that Paul, the protagonist, already acknowledges that The Argument is true consciously; what he lacks is the subjective, affective, phenomenological awareness of its truth. Fisher proposes that we too acknowledge the truth of The Argument, that human minds don’t voluntarily decide to do anything, that what we think and do is caused rather than intended. Once we are able to stop deluding ourselves, maybe we can set about investigating what causes us to think and behave as we do. This, says Fisher, is a collective undertaking. It entails discovering the political and economic forces pushing on our brains from the outside, causing us to think and act in ways that continue to fuel the capitalist apparatus as producers and consumers. More importantly, the collective can change the causal forces acting upon us, disrupting the cause-effect mechanisms that drive us and replacing them with forces that cause us to act for our own benefit rather than for the benefit of the owners and controllers of our society.

    Maybe there’s something appealing in the idea of pure immanence, of humans being moved by desires and rhizomatic vectors both within and outside of themselves. Maybe the idea of individual intentionality smacks too much of neoliberal ideology. Maybe the spontaneous unintentional political action of the multitude is more freeing than systematic, goal-directed, planned, organized change. But I think about the things I did when I got out of bed this morning: check my watch, put my clothes on, make a pot of coffee, pee in the toilet and flush it down, get the cat some food, open the front door to see if the forecast of overnight rain had been accurate. Each was an intentional act, even if I performed most of them without really thinking much about it, even though I’ve compiled the requisite behavior sequences to the point of habit. Still, I wasn’t born with the instincts for performing any of these routine actions: I learned them. And none of these morning activities was driven by irresistible biological impulse or social suasion: I could have come downstairs naked, gone outside and pissed on a tree, told the cat to fend for himself, etc.

    Comment by ktismatics — 2 April 2012 @ 7:02 am

  3. The Sartrean notion of freedom as a project not a property has something to recommend it. The project carries within it the sense of the ever forward moving aspect of the history of the person and really the embedding of the person in a causal universe only becomes thinkable as a backward review. Our motives are thereby turned into causes or events in the brain. Bergson has many good things to say about this but it would be too divergent from the OP to go into them. One thing that has to be considered from a purely materialist conception of the brain is the evidence for the continuous restructuring of the brain through learning and practice of disciplines. It’s intelligible from this perspective to consider that severe lesion could cause temporary behavioural changes but that the general moral sense contained in memory could program other areas of the brain for automatic response. The famous Phineas Gage may have been an example of this but stroke victims where the speech centre was knocked out can be trained into using other areas of the brain.

    Comment by ombhurbhuva — 2 April 2012 @ 4:33 pm

  4. “Our motives are thereby turned into causes or events in the brain.”

    I think that’s right. From a young age humans seem to have a genetic predisposition to understand cause-effect relationships in the world. Children also spontaneously imitate others’ intentional actions, focusing not just on the behavior but on the cause-effect relationship between desire, behavior, and fulfillment. Whether consciously or unconsciously, humans are able to regard themselves as causal agents, and through experience, observation, and thinking they are able to anticipate the most likely effects of their actions. Intentionality entails a kind of simulation of possible futures. In a sense the causal timeline is reversed: the desired future state becomes the cause for actions taken in the present.

    Instincts are hard-wired, automatic behavior routines triggered by specific states of the organism and/or its environment. These compiled subroutines have perpetuated themselves evolutionarily because they reliably generate effects benefiting the organism: finding food, avoiding enemies, reproducing, etc. Arguably one critical function of consciousness in humans is to call attention to situations in which instincts conflict with each other or in which the effects of anticipated actions are uncertain. Maybe a kind of uncertainty alarm goes off in the brain, calling conscious attention to the situation. Then through conscious attention the person can run the alternative future scenarios on various options. This ability to deliberate one’s next move by evaluating likely future effects would have yielded survival benefits to our ancestors in complex and novel situations. The uncertainty trigger might be activated automatically, causing conscious decision-making to kick in, but so what? It’s still one’s own brain doing the triggering.

    Eventually through repeated exposure the “read Bergson” synapse in my brain will reach the tipping point.

    Comment by ktismatics — 2 April 2012 @ 5:28 pm

  5. “I once made a home visit to see a head-injured patient. Someone had swung a baseball bat through the front of his skull. A year on and he was doing as well as could be expected. He came to greet me at the front door, but as he put his hand forward he noticed a milk bottle on the doorstep. Before his hand connected with mine he was bending to pick up the bottle. He had almost reached it when he began to straighten again and turn towards me, only to change tack and bend to the doorstep. He straightened again. He bent. He straightened. He bent. He shifted his weight and shuffled, struggling to execute one or the other of the action plans hopelessly misfiring in the mutilated circuitry of his frontal lobes: motor dysexecutive syndrome. Finally, I picked up the bottle and gave it to him. We would have been there all day otherwise.”

    – Paul Broks, Into the Silent Land: Travels in Neuropsychology, 2003

    Comment by ktismatics — 2 April 2012 @ 5:50 pm

  6. Rather than recoiling from theoretical and practical nihilism, then, one path to postcapitalism would consist in fully embracing it, so that the notion of the self-conscious
    subject – which, according to Althusser, is the very cornerstone of capitalist ideology – is no longer sustainable.

    This dovetails neatly (and is entirely ”in character”) with Comrade Fisher’s other proposals e.g. accelerationism whereby we intentionally ”deterritorialize” ourselves, allow ourselves to be inseminated by Capital, precisely in order to overcome it. Here he even goes so far as to propose a collective/beehive consciousness, a Communist consciousness, that is transpersonal. It’s all very grand and very ambitious, as befits this British Techno-Romancer.

    Anyho about all this talk about losing self-consciousness: how about if there are, Black Swan – style, several (materially understood) consciousnesses existing within the same personality? If then your consciousness was altered by the neurosurgery, you’d merely be activating another of your many consciousnesses. Is this what is meant by the suggestion that intentionality cannot be crushed by the neurosurgery?

    You didn’t at all mention that my hero and cyberpunk icon qualified cognitive psychology as being guilty of overvaluing consciousness. I wonder why.

    Comment by Post-Continental Satyr — 2 April 2012 @ 7:02 pm

  7. I agree entirely with your analysis of the k-punk Neuropath treatise. And while I did consciously consider making a critical remark about Shaviro’s unsubstantiated claim that psychology overemphasizes consciousness, I intentionally decided not to. The protagonist in Neuropath is a cognitive psychologist, and he’s certainly guilty of intellectually assenting to a theory that he doesn’t feel or experience subjectively. The surgeon sets about remedying this over-intellectualization with his scalpel.

    If not several whole consciousnesses existing in the same person, it seems to be the case that consciousness is distributed across the brain rather than centralized like a CEO in the corner office. I believe that Michael was alluding to the evidence that the brain is able to compensate for damage by rerouting its destroyed functions to other undamaged sectors. So, for example, people who have a stroke that damages their ability to speak may eventually regain the ability, not because the damaged parts of the cortex revitalizes itself but because the destroyed functionality is taken up by the undamaged parts. So I suppose some of the Neuropath mad scientist’s surgical “patients” might eventually recover their destroyed competencies, but we’re led to believe that this surgeon would be thorough in his neural depredations.

    Comment by ktismatics — 2 April 2012 @ 7:41 pm

  8. Bakker has a blog, on which he recently wrote a response to Mark k-punk’s article entitled Wank Meets Narrative. Narrative Eats Wank. I guess that, for Bakker, “wank” = philosophy.

    “As soon as the problem ceases to be something ‘merely philosophical,’ it ceases to be something that ‘mere philosophy’ can adequately address. The question is now locked in the hands of the institution most directly responsible for its materialization, science. Neuropath, as science fiction, depicts a time when the pessimistic inductions we are making now have become/are becoming accomplished facts.”

    Of course the faits of Neuropath are not yet accompli, and a science fiction narrative is not the same thing as a scientific experiment. I agree though that The Argument can be better resolved by science than by philosophy. I just don’t believe that Neuropath’s antagonist is either testing or demonstrating The Argument in a way that’s at all persuasive. I.e., Bakker’s fictional mad scientist is also a bad scientist. Can humans act on the basis of intention, or is intention an illusion created by consciousness? Well, in the future envisioned in Neuropath, the surgeon could simply snip out the intentionality module of someone’s consciousness, then see if that person still initiates actions post-surgically in ways that s/he had regarded as intentional before surgery. If s/he does, then intentionality can be regarded as an illusion, because it adds nothing to the explanation of the person’s actions. If not — if after surgery the person can no longer initiate behaviors that s/he previously thought of as intentional — then intentionality adds something tangible to human behavior and thus can be deemed a real capability of human brains. It turns out, though, that these very experiments are performed unintentionally in the present by tumors and assailants wielding baseball bats. And the answer is… destruction of certain regions of the brain result in the person’s loss of ability to plan intentional actions. The Argument fails on empirical grounds, not just in the imagined future but in the empirical present.

    Comment by ktismatics — 2 April 2012 @ 10:53 pm

  9. LOL about the wank – though it’s funny how Bakker makes sure to express how flattered he is that the wanker has wanked as much as he did on the writer’s behalf. Ah the mores of writer’s narcissism! As for the wanker, I had difficulty wanking to the text as well. The mid-section is such a deferred climax, it’s painful to the gonads. There are very many detours towards Heidegger and fucknows what else, so that the message gets bogged down in a kind of an acrobatic display of erudition – not unlike that of the Master Zizek, but Comrade Fisher unfortunately has little sense of humor I noticed, so he doesn’t alleviate the constipation by clownery.

    I didn’t understand this last one: are you saying that current empirics confirms that intentionality is a real faculty of the brain, and cannot really be removed?

    There is further confusion with the language. I don’t think that psychoanalysis ever claimed that the Unconscious doesn’t have a will – to the contrary, the Drive would be an extreme form of intentionality, since it’s so thoroughly invested in replicating itself. In other words: is intentionality strictly teleological? Is it strictly conscious? I doubt it.

    I think my hero (of course) is right and cognitive psychology DOES overinvest in the conscious. It does not precisely deny the Unconscious, but it sort of walks by it pretending that it’s not there (except, of course, in those cases where the cognitivist discovers he or she had shat up her panties, as in a well-known comic book). As I told you before, I think this is not ”bad” in itself (because I think both a science of the conscious, and one of the unconscious, need to coexist and supplement each other’s deficiencies). What’s very bad, though, is that the market economy seems to overinvest in cognition because the semi-illusion of agency that selfconsciousness as a construct implies, dovetails neatly with the market economy’s desire to manipulate. So for example instead of being told that you are exploited, you will be admonished for not ”managing” your ”conscious assets” – dieting, living a healthy life, not smoking et cetera. If you propose an ALTERNATIVE variable (such as – I don’t want to be healthy, I want to be obsessed), this instantly becomes dangerous because it exposes the totalitarian nature of the market’s demand which is to turn you into eternally-young, always-willing vampire laborer. I think it also directly leads to the marginalization of the ill and the maladapted, and to a kind of a Darwinian mindframe.

    Speaking of which, read dr. Sinthome’s latest (on Bogost and Darwin). I am just now writing up TOASTER, an object-oriented story inspired by the cat’s latest work. Meanwhile I realized that Ian Bogost plays the role of the Alien Queen in SINTHOSIS. He’s the one who laid the ass-eggs in Lacan’s sexuation chamber.

    Comment by Post-Continental Satyr — 3 April 2012 @ 4:50 am

  10. Anyway as I was nervous and distracted this morning, I wanted to get the breakfast done as soon as possible so I pushed the lid of my toaster really hard – and bad toast came out. Then I considered its objectness, and realized that the toaster has its own way of closing the lid, that the lid has to clasp neatly on the lower end, and once I allowed the toaster to do the job on its own terms, wonderful toast came out. The relationship established between me and the toaster was not correlative, but a synergetic: the toaster was not laboring FOR me, it was simply laboring.

    But then TROUBLE began. First I thought, OK maybe the toaster is working now as it wants to, but still, it is working towards the goal of soothing my hunger. It is feeding me. Is it not being exploited? Then I thought, what about that sandwich? In having been minced twice, first by the toaster, then by my mouth and digestive system, its objectness has not been respected. I wondered: does the sandwich not have its own way of being devoured? Soon these anxieties were replaced by even greater ones, such as my fear that the sandwich could be devouring ME instead of the other way round – dr. Sinthome did say that 90% of me consists of microorganisms anyhow. What if in opening up to objects, I facilitate my road trip towards inevitable dissolution and demise?

    Comment by Dejan — 3 April 2012 @ 7:40 am

  11. Cognitive psychological research, like all empirical science, is a conscious intentional endeavor. An experiment is designed to set up the preconditions for the emergence of two possible alternative futures. If one future occurs, then the researcher’s hypothesis is confirmed; if the other, then the hypothesis is rejected. As for clownery, neither scientific journals nor wank journals encourage it, allowing the suppressed material to manifest itself in informal bitching sessions conducted around the coffee pot.

    Yes, I am saying that “that current empirics confirms that intentionality is a real faculty of the brain, and cannot really be removed.” I’m also saying that the neurosurgeon in the novel didn’t set up the right experimental futures for testing the hypothesis. Maybe this is because he had already had the conscious intentionality portions of his brain surgically removed.

    The premise underlying the plot is that the US National Security Agency is running a top-secret neurosurgical lab in which agents are surgically relieved of their consciences, so that on their assignments they can perform subterfuge, treachery, torture, and assassination without hesitation. It turns out that these surgically-modified operatives enjoy their work, their supposition being that conscience functions as a conscious brake on the innate desires. Now that the brakes are broken they can do what they please, and as NSA they can get away with it. Unfortunately for them, they also seem to acquire the psychopath’s usual downfall: a false sense of invulnerability. So one female agent — a very sexy young babe of course — is too busy enjoying a multiply-orgasmic extended rape that she fails to notice the other guy pulling a pistol out of his pants and blowing her away.

    Comment by ktismatics — 3 April 2012 @ 7:48 am

  12. “the market economy seems to overinvest in cognition because the semi-illusion of agency that selfconsciousness as a construct implies, dovetails neatly with the market economy’s desire to manipulate. So for example instead of being told that you are exploited, you will be admonished for not ”managing” your ”conscious assets” – dieting, living a healthy life, not smoking et cetera. If you propose an ALTERNATIVE variable (such as – I don’t want to be healthy, I want to be obsessed), this instantly becomes dangerous because it exposes the totalitarian nature of the market’s demand which is to turn you into eternally-young, always-willing vampire laborer. I think it also directly leads to the marginalization of the ill and the maladapted, and to a kind of a Darwinian mindframe.”

    I agree. The recent guest post at Lenin’s Tomb links to an article discussing the quandary posed by the prevalence of depression in the workforce. Corporations need their workers to be happy in order to be productive. Losing one’s job is thought to be intrinsically depressing, so part of the therapeutic plan is to get the depressed unemployed person back to work. The article makes your argument that cognitive-behavioral therapy is meant to function as a low-cost technique for repairing the non-productive human resource. This is to be accomplished by restoring in the depressed worker the happiness intrinsic to conscious performance of actions undertaken in pursuit of rational objectives. Empirically, CBT is neither better nor worse than other therapeutic techniques at alleviating symptoms of depression, but that’s neither here nor there. The linked article points out the contemporary dilemma in capitalist management: what happens when the job itself is depressing, when the work isn’t intrinsically enjoyable, when the product isn’t worth the money the customer pays for it, when the profits accrue not to the workers but to the owners? The main solution seems to be outsourcing to cheaper, less problematic workforces.

    The idea of the immanent revolt of the multitude is at least in part a romantic reaction against the conscious, intentional, planned and organized strategies of capitalist production. The spontaneous outpouring of rage at the system, the emotional solidarity of joining forces with one’s fellows, and the joy of creativity/destruction: it’s the freeing of emotion and suppressed desire that brings about the new world order. Alternatively, there is accelerationist posthuman romanticism: rev up the emotional thrills of capitalist work to such a high pitch that the system pulls itself apart, allowing something unprecedented to spring up from the apocalyptic rubble. I suspect that only a conscious, intentional, planned, organized revolution has even the remotest chance of succeeding.

    Comment by ktismatics — 3 April 2012 @ 8:16 am

  13. There’s certainly something wrong about socialist doomsday thinking, as I was pondering the other day reading that the EU DID end up giving the dowry to Greece, despite the socialists’ raving several months in advance that a new Commie revolution is in the making in Greece and bla. Of course I never once thought the EU wouldn’t do that, because why should EU risk falling apart over Greece. But I suppose revving up that sort of a discussion is helpful in the sense of constraining, restricting, limiting capitalism, perhaps, from going all-out batshit crazy.

    I just posted an interesting clip under dr. Sinthome’s Darwin discussion, in which the Illuminati conspiracists explain Prometheus as the story of the Illuminati’s belief that they have stolen the gifts of the Gods. Although the whole Illuminati story sounds ludicrous, if you translate it to political language it DOESN’T SOUND CRAZY AT ALL!!!

    Comment by Post-Continental Satyr — 3 April 2012 @ 10:06 am

  14. to get the depressed unemployed person back to work.

    Well, which is TRUE – whoever felt better in isolation except maybe painters – but what if depression is not an illness, but a healthy reaction to the existential vacuity of the work you’re doing,… etc

    Comment by Post-Continental Satyr — 3 April 2012 @ 10:22 am

  15. Darwin made the case that evolution operates without purpose or norms or teleology. Must we infer that humans, who are evolved beings, cannot have intentions or standards or goals? That’s how The Argument runs in Neuropoath. To repeat part of the dialogue I included in the post: “For some reason, whenever science encounters intention or purpose in the world, it snuffs it out. The world as described by science is arbitrary and random. There’s innumerable causes for everything, but no reasons for anything.” I don’t see why that should follow. Evolution operates without wings, but that doesn’t mean that birds can’t fly. Humans’ ability to have intentions and plans presumably evolved the same way wings did: through random variations that perpetuated themselves in subsequent generations because these mutations enhanced the organism’s odds of survival.

    There are those who believe that humans should act more like evolution, renouncing intentionality and systematic planning in order to give free rein for the sub-personal rhizomes of power and creativity to flow freely through them. Again though, why should the purposelessness of nature be normative? It seems like a self-refuting position.

    Comment by ktismatics — 3 April 2012 @ 11:05 am

  16. Here’s a link to an academic lecture delivered by Bakker in November 2008 entitled “The End of the World As We Know It: Neuroscience and the Semantic Apocalypse”. Nick Srnicek was a respondent, so presumably this is how Bakker and his book were discovered by the theory bloggers.

    Comment by ktismatics — 3 April 2012 @ 11:52 am

  17. Again though, why should the purposelessness of nature be normative? It seems like a self-refuting position.

    For me the aporium can only be solved by the Eastern Orthodox God, who is at the same time unknowable and omnipresent. Dr. Sinthome’s science, for all of its good intent, is vacuous. Nobody’s going to get worked up over a cause on the premise of some random development, something that may or may not happen. And especially since the prospect of randomness is FRIGHTENING, not liberating, as the cat seems to think.( But you’ll see, when the cat gets a little older, she’ll start wondering about her own demise and then she’ll return to religion I’m sure; she’s too Romantic to be a materialist). What I can WELL imagine is that people get so exhausted and depressed by the system, they just stop working. A kind of a passive nihilism, or positive melancholia, or destructive resignation. Like, I don’t believe for a second that the current European government’s plan to get us to work until 67 is really going to work out. Sounds like the government is clinging desperately to a by-now illogical neoliberal paradigm.

    The Argument sounds actually like the classic horror ploy, I instantly thought of John Carpenter, in whose films you encounter that same purposeless, instinct-like Evil pounding away on the insignificant humans. Michael Myers is like a lobotomy patient, he only wants to kill with no discernible purpose whatsoever. (But then again I’m thinking – that’s only if you designate intention as conscious) It sounds like an ingenious ploy, though, well-designed to titillate. It’s the kinda ploy you need for your own novels, if you want them to be marketable.

    Comment by Post-Continental Satyr — 3 April 2012 @ 12:37 pm

  18. Neuropath is clearly a genre novel, not so much a horror story as a thriller. It reminds me strongly of Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code and Lost Symbol. Instead of being an expert in ancient languages, Bakker’s hero is a cognitive psychologist. It is a page-turner, and Bakker’s writing does have snap and crackle. He breaks the mold though by having his hero fail in a tragic ending. The bad guy is smart, handsome, charming, eloquent — more like an enemy in a James Bond story than Michael Myers. I suppose there would be room for a sequel if the hero can find a new surgeon to restore his brain to its original condition, as well as his son’s and his ex-wife’s. I don’t really know if Neuropath was a market success on first release, but it seems to be languishing now in Amazon’s archives. Maybe Bakker intended to write a sequel but sales figures weren’t persuasive to his publisher.

    Comment by ktismatics — 3 April 2012 @ 12:52 pm

  19. There are those who believe that humans should act more like evolution, renouncing intentionality and systematic planning in order to give free rein for the sub-personal rhizomes of power and creativity

    The problem is that they – meaning borderline logorrheic academics like Comrade Fisher – seem to think that THEY have the theoretic prowess to tell US that we should do that, while they continue to (quite intentionally) pursue their academic goals in the relative comfort of gainful intellectual employment. Howcome Comrade Fisher hasn´t pulled his anus inside out yet and rhizomatically projected himself into that capitalist hyperspace? He seems still to be writing articles and teaching. All armchair revolutionaries, I tell ya.

    I stil didn´t see that dr. SInthome explained how exactly it is that Darwin´s theory proves the evolution´s randomness?

    Comment by Post-Continental Satyr — 3 April 2012 @ 2:21 pm

  20. Heavily-plotted narratives like Neuropath, with clues to be unraveled, layers of secrecy to be unveiled, and the relentless forward lean toward the predictably shocking climax (which in this book smirkily takes place in the town of Climax NY), rely on authorial intentionality and planning. It’s certainly possible that Bakker started with a what-if scenario and allowed the outline of a story to take shape, but as a crafted finished work it’s built backward from the predetermined ending. As a reader one is pulled forward into the future toward that inevitable denouement, assembling pieces of the puzzle and fitting them together in such a way as to reveal the picture that’s been there waiting for you all along. Other kinds of stories have a more open feel, a sense that events could just as easily go any number of ways, where the kinds of surprises are less formulaic. These would be the more immanent and rhizomatic narratives.

    Comment by ktismatics — 3 April 2012 @ 3:38 pm

  21. The other night I watched the Cronenberg movie about Jung and found it quite dull. An entire movie devoted to Otto Gross might have been better. I’d never heard of this early rogue disciple of Freud’s before, but he sounds like the precursor of Wilhelm Reich as advocate for the release of the id from the ego’s intentional managerial control.

    Comment by ktismatics — 3 April 2012 @ 4:34 pm

  22. What gives one the sense of a novel that has reality? I believe it comes from the sense of the consciousness of the characters that really are characters because they bring the wound up intensity of what has happened to them up to the point they are at. They can from that point go in various directions and still retain authenticity. Of course it’s all an illusion that we come to primed with suspension of disbelief but it’s always nice to be surprised not just by a turn of events but by mixed motives and alterations of character. It’s a matter of genius but characters get away from their creator occasionally and come alive, escape from the cellar and terrorise the village. Could there really be a great determinist novel? Would anyone want to read one?

    Comment by ombhurbhuva — 3 April 2012 @ 7:29 pm

  23. I agree that conscious intentional plotting, in fictional lives as in real ones, gains predictability at the expense of unpredictability. I’m amazed that some writers are able to outline an entire novel and can then muster the patience and discipline to go back and fill in the details knowing beforehand how everything is going to work out from start to finish.

    Comment by ktismatics — 3 April 2012 @ 9:47 pm

  24. John:
    Schematic, programatic, didactic, predictable. These are terms that no author would want to read in a review of their opus unless it was a train timetable. The next question must be: Is scientific intelligence overvalued or more to the point: do you need to be all that smart to do good science. Do you notice that when scientists move away from their specialism that they can be quite dim? Following on the candle-power metaphor their dimness consists in a very high degree of illumination of an area which is illuminable and drawing all their knowledge from that. The really interesting questions about brainmind are in the shadows where rascal artists, mystics and philosophers play.

    Comment by ombhurbhuva — 4 April 2012 @ 5:23 am

  25. The dramatic battle being played out in Neuropath is between causality and intentionality. I’ve suggested that the novel’s advocate for causality might be a great surgeon but he’s not a very good scientist. The experiments he performs either don’t put his hypothesis to the test or he misconstrues the meaning of the results. He’s using science not to discover something but to demonstrate a philosophical idea that he believes a priori to be true. In other words, his intentional scientific investigations, from experimental design to interpretation of empirical findings, are *caused* by his cognitive biases.

    There are real-life scientists who work this way, using science as a source of philosophical demonstrations and proof texts rather than as a means of discovery. There are also extremely normal scientists who extend previously-validated scientific theories and findings into marginally new areas of investigation, thereby filling in the empty spaces in the knowledge grid. I don’t know how many paradigm-busting scientific geniuses there are; usually the progress is incremental and distributed across many scientists working at the cutting edge of the field. Most bench science hovers between the predictable and the unexpected. Psychological research in particular embraces this grey area, where findings are typically reported in terms of probabilities and confidence intervals and the percentage of variance in empirical data accounted for by the hypothesis. I remember, when I began graduate study in psychology, our area chair telling us that both success and enjoyment in the field depended largely on one’s “tolerance for ambiguity.”

    I suppose we’re playing deconstructionist games here. Neuropath purportedly demonstrates that humans are caused and cannot act intentionally, yet the novel is itself the product of the author’s intentionality. Scientific psychologists intentionally design experiments so as to identify deterministic causes of human thought and affect and behavior. Many dramatic tragedies hinge on characters’ intentions being overridden by Fate; that is, by causes outside of their conscious control. Setting a course between these two determining forces, the Scilla of cause on one side and the Charybdis of intent on the other, pulled by currents and buffeted by waves, the hero must accept the inevitability of being thrown off course into the uncharted seas and the undiscovered countries. Maybe that’s what good scientists and good fiction writers share: they allow cause and intent to interact, willingly exposing themselves to the exhilaration and the fear of the unexpected, testing their resourcefulness under circumstances in which failure is a real possibility.

    Comment by ktismatics — 4 April 2012 @ 7:49 am

  26. What is being overlooked is whether intention/motive is causal in the same sense that an inclined plane is causal. I can predict certain thing like the reappearance of Halley’s comet. Certain forces are at work that I know about and I simply compute them all. Can that sort of view of causal forces operate when we look backward at a choice of mine which I can account for by saying ‘I thought this was the best thing to do even though I was slightly tempted to do something else’ . Is thinking about the play of forces really adequate? Breaking up the flow of process is useful in mathematics, differential calculus for instance but can the flow of human process be stopped in this way except by death. The unfolding of the process itself is free in its very action in that it never stops until the final instant. Conatus as Spinoza referred to it as goes merrily on. Any will whatever is therefore ‘free’ per se no matter how predictable the actions of the person are.

    In other words maybe the ‘free will’ philosophical debate should not be about the play of forces at all and analogies to physics are invalid. The standard ‘free will’ inquiry in the legal and psychological domains ought not to be confused with the metaphysical domain.

    A rough sketch at reconfiguration of the problem.

    Comment by ombhurbhuva — 4 April 2012 @ 12:43 pm

  27. I was talking to my physiotherapist today about intentionality – funnily the therapist as an amateur philosopher, so while I ostensibly go there to have my shoulder fixed, we always end up talking about the latest discussion on Ktismatics or some other spot on the post-Continental blawgomap – but anyhow…

    he said, so if we didn’t have any will, wouldn’t society fall apart completely as we wouldn’t be able to plan even the next minute?

    Sounds logical to me!

    I didn’t think the Cronenberg was either exciting or particularly interesting, but it does come at a moment when I think Freud is regaining some fire due to the banking crisis and the growing realization that irrational forces lurk behind the seeming rational success of capitalism.

    Comment by Post-Continental Satyr — 4 April 2012 @ 1:41 pm

  28. You might be right, Michael. In the context of this post, both the neuropathic surgeon and his psychologist adversary frame the debate not in metaphysical but in empirical terms, so I’ve stuck with what Biblical scholars would call “lower criticism” by staying inside the empirical framework. The psychologist ultimately stands up for intentionality; the surgeon tries to disabuse him of this old-fashioned notion. Ultimately I’m with the psychologist, based in part on extant neuroscientific findings. Certainly research psychologists study humans’ plans, goals, intentions and so on as if they were real, holding in abeyance the question of whether they are reducible to physical and chemical determinants. Even if Bakker planned out his novel so thoroughly that we regard it as “schematic, programmatic, didactic, predictable,” this may have resulted not from intellectual and environmental constraints on his imaginative freedom but from his intention to attain commercial success.

    Toward that end, I wonder if Bakker might have produced a more salable book if he’d made his neuropathic surgeon a more sympathetic figure. This morning I read an excerpt from Kotsko’s book Why We Love Sociopaths. Presumably psychopaths were born that way, while sociopaths became that way by nurture and culture; the neuropath was made that way by intentional surgical intervention. The titular character of the Bourne movies is similar to Bakker’s NSA spooks, though the interventions on Bourne consisted of more traditional Manchurian Candidate-style brainwashing rather than neurosurgery. We sympathize with Bourne because we realize that The Company has fucked him up, but he’s also an incredibly efficient operative as a consequence. There is no reason why the surgery performed on the neuropath should have turned him into such a sadist in his dealings with his old college chum, especially since that aspect of his altered mental functioning argues against The Argument he so fervently espouses. At the end of the story the psychologist’s brain has undergone the procedure, but his surgeon buddy is dead. Maybe in the sequel he would have followed the zeitgeist by becoming the good and lovable neuropath, like Dexter or Batman, using his impairments as a gift.

    Comment by ktismatics — 4 April 2012 @ 2:01 pm

  29. I’m with you and the physiotherapist, Satyr. Consider the sad plight of that guy from comment #5 who can’t shake hands with Paul Broks without getting distracted by the milk bottle, and who can’t pick up the bottle without trying to shake hands. Somehow in the context of our Neuropath discusssion I was picturing your physiotherapist teaching you how to use your newly installed bionic super-shoulder.

    Regarding Freud and the dark irrational forces, you pointed out earlier that neoliberal and especially libertarian doctrine asserts the power of the individual human free will to achieve anything — happiness, success, wealth, etc. The bloom is off that rose now. The Neuropath just takes it to the opposite extreme: the individual human can will nothing at all.

    Comment by ktismatics — 4 April 2012 @ 2:12 pm

  30. “… you will be admonished for not ”managing” your ”conscious assets” – dieting, living a healthy life, not smoking et cetera. If you propose an ALTERNATIVE variable (such as – I don’t want to be healthy, I want to be obsessed)…”

    ‘obsessed’!!!???

    Excuse me, Mr Ktismatic. OT, but I just wanted to see if my cute avatar works here – it doesn’t work at ‘the other place’.

    Yes, is is indeed ‘I’!

    Comment by lafayettesennacherib — 4 April 2012 @ 7:19 pm

  31. Lafayette! Welcome to the den of iquity! The avatar seems to be working nicely — you look just as I imagined you.

    Comment by ktismatics — 4 April 2012 @ 7:31 pm

  32. Lafayette, I’m sorry I neglected you at the headquarters, but I just don’t feel inspired this week to write my own posts. Anyhow I’m sure you have a lot to contribute to this place as well.

    Comment by Post-Continental Satyr — 4 April 2012 @ 8:12 pm

  33. I’m with you and the physiotherapist, Satyr.

    But I get the impression that the ”anti-intentionalists” cf Comrade Fisher are indeed looking forward to the collapse of society, because they seem to think the Communist society shall emerge once this rotten one is gone. That may be so, but I wouldn’t start MESSING WITH GODS before I’m sure I have the prowess to win.

    Comment by Post-Continental Satyr — 4 April 2012 @ 8:22 pm

  34. Lafayette what do you think about this

    Comment by Post-Continental Satyr — 4 April 2012 @ 8:33 pm

  35. I think Alex Jones has got himself a nice little earner there doing what he does. Would you call that ‘viral marketing’? They’re really going to town on this movie. The unfortunate side of Jones unfortunately chimes with what seems to be unfortunate overtones in the movie, going by the Danikenish/mythological wallpaper; and what is unfortunate about it is the repeated suggestion that there is a ‘natural aristocracy of blood’, not quite spelt out. No! They’re not illuminati from outer space, come to guide our kind; they’re sleazy, swindling, mafia spivs!

    If you like that sort of stuff (and it seems you do), you might find this fascinating, though this film takes a long time getting the point out:
    Thunderbolts of the Gods

    You can read more about the people who are promulgating this at the Thunderbolts website http://www.thunderbolts.info/wp/
    They seem to me basically to be Velikovskians (google it) who have married one of V’s theories ( a very silly one, to me) to the very serious and important work of the Electric Universe/Plasma cosmology people, and somehow got some of the latter to take it seriously – l don’t know why, but Donald Scott is no fool, and I can’t recommend highly enough reading the bits of his book ‘the Electric Sky’ that are available to read for free at the above site – in fact, buy it!

    Comment by lafayettesennacherib — 4 April 2012 @ 11:35 pm

  36. By the way (and I hope I’m not breaching the etiquette of this site) if you watch the film, see if you’re struck by the resemblance of the centre of sunspots to SPHINCTERS!!

    Comment by lafayettesennacherib — 4 April 2012 @ 11:44 pm

  37. Don’t want to hog the show, but since I started on it, these 2 vids show the Velikovskian side of it more pronouncedly:
    Symbols of an Alien Sky

    Remembering the End of the World

    Comment by lafayettesennacherib — 5 April 2012 @ 12:28 am

  38. I’m reading the transcript of Bakker’s academic talk linked in comment #17 above. He begins with a calculatedly pugnacious kick at his audience:

    I need to begin by saying that I am a writer, not an academic, and certainly not a researcher. And if this wasn’t enough for you to sprinkle a little sceptical salt across the salad of ideas I will be presenting, you should know that I write not literary fiction, but the lowest form of commercial fiction short of Harlequin romances, epic fantasy. Given that epic fantasy was the genre most likely to be dismissed or lampooned by academic specialists, by ‘serious people in the know,’ I figured that was where the action had to be… The only literature I’m interested in, indeed the only literature I think has positive social value, is literature that reaches beyond the narrow circle of the educated classes, and so reaches those who do not already share the bulk of a writer’s values and attitudes. Literature that actually argues, actually provokes, rather than doing so virtually in the imaginations of the like-minded. Living literature.

    Immediately he acknowledges that his anti-academic combative stance is a self-defensive compensation strategy:

    One of the downsides of being kicked out of your philosophy PhD program is that you can no longer avail yourself of the many self-congratulatory myths provided by the academy. I’ve had to make up new ones. So I’ve become exceedingly fond of seeing myself as a ‘thinker.’

    He then asserts his freedom to think whatever the hell he wants because he’s not constrained by the academy’s standards. But there are other limits to his free-thinking swagger:

    You see, I really am free to think whatever the hell I want, so long as I continue telling rip-roaring yarns.

    So now we have two reasons why Neuropath never really puts The Argument to the test: (1) Bakker’s status as “thinker” is shaped by a background not in science but in philosophy, and (2) rip-roaringness takes priority over rigor in his texts.

    Having read his yarn and written about it I will probably read the rest of his think piece, but not right now.

    Comment by ktismatics — 5 April 2012 @ 8:14 am

  39. That’s Lafayette for you – posts three 90 minute long videos expecting me to watch them and respond almost immediately, instead of making a summary of the video’s in order to engage in a discussion about the topic I proposed. Now I have to scrub through the videos hoping that I have enough TIME to collect the arguments, and make some sense out of it.

    (By the way – the topic is only seemingly unrelated to this thread, since the issue of alien Gods relates to the Darwin discussion and Prometheus is a very current topic in this sense)

    …I can’t judge whether his anti-academicism is a pose, or a genuine item. He certainly sounds like a PROVOCATEUR, and I like that a lot in both writers and film-makers. The Argument is more like a Rorschach test than that I think he means it literally. I think Shaviro said it was all meta-meta-meta, but again not having read the novel I can’t judge. I certainly like all of the passages you mentioned, including the way characters transform after surgery. Metamorphic tales are an animator’s wet dream.

    Comment by Post-Continental Satyr — 5 April 2012 @ 8:43 am

  40. Speaking of the sphincters, one of the greatest things in the design of ALIEN is that sphincter-like tunnel that Dallas (Nostromo captain) crawls into so he can catch the alien. It reappears in the Prometheus trailer. Now that you mention it it seems the film-makers were inspired by REAL space, or does this simply prove Deleuze’s idea that everything in the world is sexual.

    Comment by Post-Continental Satyr — 5 April 2012 @ 8:47 am

  41. I’m sure you aren’t the only one who loves Bakker’s renegade posture, Satyr. And it is possible that he doesn’t believe The Argument literally himself, that he just adopted it as a convenient starting point for building a ripping yarn. Shaviro didn’t meta-ize Neuropath in his blog post about the novel, though maybe you’re privy to other source material. In some ways The Argument fits with Shaviro’s panpsychism, such that even our ability to frame intentions and to act on them would be caused by Spinozist-Deleuzian forces of intellect flowing through us. Yesterday I picked up from the library a book entitled The Wayward Mind: An Intimate History of the Unconscious, by Guy Claxton. Certainly the ancients believed that both reason and passion, and madness too, flowed through humans from the gods.

    Comment by ktismatics — 5 April 2012 @ 10:54 am

  42. In fact, I recant my half-assed “hermeneutic of suspicion” analysis of the psychological *causes* for Bakker’s anti-academic stance in the prolog to his talk. I certainly agree with him that the academy imposes constraints on those who would encamp there. While commercial fiction imposes its own constraints, Bakker isn’t addressing an audience of his fellow novelists. Maybe if he was speaking to fiction writers, agents, and publishers he would rail against that club’s conformist expectations as well.

    Comment by ktismatics — 5 April 2012 @ 11:13 am

  43. ” posts three 90 minute long videos expecting me to watch them and respond almost immediately, ”

    No, I don’t expect that. At your leisure. Synopsis? There’s 2 points – the Electric Universe one, and the Velikovskian one as I said. Former good, latter dodgy IMHO. You can pick it up easier by reading stuff at the Thunderbolts blog, but I think the last film ‘Remembering the End of the World’ is the one that will interest you most. I rewatched the other 2 but didn’t find the stuff I was looking for, so I guess it’s in the last one – I watched them all a few years ago.

    I’ll keep it short because it’s off topic. I’d forgotten the point of the Thunderbolts stuff myself, but …wait for it,,,it hangs on the idea that the Earth used to be a moon of Saturn, AS NEAR AS 3 OR 4 THOUSAND YEARS AGO, but was separated… I can’t really remember the details, but that’s enough for some rather obvious difficulties to present themselves. Why do people like Donald Scott and Wallace Thornhill bother with this> Enough

    Comment by lafayettesennacherib — 5 April 2012 @ 11:39 am

  44. I need more time to watch some of those, Lafayette, but I posted the Illuminati rant because I think that though the whole idea of the Illuminati conspiracy and the secret societies is dubious, the conspiracy is actually very real in the conviction of the rich ruling elite that they have stolen fire from the (alien) Gods and now have the powers of the Titans themselves. How does this connect to Darwin, well, believing that you’re God is the ultimate instance of the ”transcendental fallacy” which consist in the belief that there is a designer behind the design, that evolution is directed rather than random. With his idea of the random evolution, Darwin hinted at a possible resistance, which reoccurs in the discussion about the ”Argument” and the possibility of a distributed intentionality, a decentralized one that cannot be controlled as easily as the Titans imagine.

    Comment by Post-Continental Satyr — 5 April 2012 @ 7:15 pm

  45. Yes, ‘Remembering the End of the World’ is the one that will probably interest you most – it’s a lot more coherent than Symbols of an Alien Sky, and covers the same ground. It is rather slow, though, with an irritatingly ‘portentous’ narration. Thunderbolts is more on the electric universe/ plasma cosmology stuff, which interests me more.

    Enough of that. I feel rude for going off-topic on such a scale on my first foray here, so let me get back to the topic. It deeply interests me, though I’m just not that tuned into it at the moment, so I haven’t a lot to add. Let me recommend again though Max Velmans’ ‘Understanding Consciousness’, which is such a delight to read although it is a serious academic work. I’ve just started the second edition, which is substantially enlarged, but I got distracted to re-read Gravity’s Rainbow, and I’ve promised Dejan to read Lacan at the Scene next… So, it’s not fresh in my mind at the moment. Anyone who’s interested in consciousness matters should LOVE Velmans book – look at the editorial reviews on Amzn.com.

    ” The only literature I’m interested in, indeed the only literature I think has positive social value, is literature that reaches beyond the narrow circle of the educated classes, and so reaches those who do not already share the bulk of a writer’s values and attitudes. Literature that actually argues, actually provokes, rather than doing so virtually in the imaginations of the like-minded. Living literature.”

    If a book or writer has a name for being ‘literary’ these days – you know, write-ups in the Sunday paper reviews and so on – I tend to stay clear. I used to feel obliged to try everything that generated a buzz, but they’re all so uniformly dull, faux-gentile… ” written to be studied rather than read” as Gore Vidal put it. I imagine that’s why Pynchon didn’t get the prize (Pulitzer was it?) for Gravity’s Rainbow – a bit tasteless?

    They by and large also tend to be written with much less craft than the average detective novel, which also have the merit of doing some real social journalism often. And SF and horror novels are more fun and are addressed to ordinary people. I read recently some USaian English professor said that only 6 people understand modern poetry! Who gives a shit what people like that think? And that’s what I like to feel about a book. On the other hand, there are a few who bridge the gap like Vonnegut, Brautigan, Tim Robbins… What’s the answer? Who can say?

    Comment by lafayettesennacherib — 6 April 2012 @ 7:44 am

  46. Creation stories aren’t really off-topic forays here, Lafayette. In fact, you could say that that is the topic of this blog, “ktismatics” being a word I made up that means something like “theory and practice of creation.” Riffing on the Satyr’s interpretation that the gods were the ruling elite, I dredge up this bit from the novel I finished writing about a year ago. The dialogue refers back to the intriguing news blurb from Genesis 6, informing readers that the sons of the gods “came in to” the daughters of men, who from this union spawned the Nephilim, that mighty mongrel race of ancient renown who provoked Yahweh to a level of ire strong enough for him to unleash The Flood.

    “Do you think that the sons of the gods were rich?”

    Mrs. Dervain’s right eyebrow arched as she tilted her head slightly. “A fairly obvious secular reading is that the gods were the aristocrats of their day, the wealthy and powerful landowners. And so of course the sons of the gods were their scions. Whereas the daughters of men were peasant girls. The good and beautiful daughters of men caught the eye of the sons of the gods, who simply bought them.”

    “So that makes Yahweh an old-school aristo who didn’t want to water down the blue bloodline. Let the sons of gods marry the daughters of gods. If it was good enough for your Old Man it’s good enough for you.”

    “Maintain the differences: commandment number one.”

    “But, if you’re a daughter of men and you have your own stash, you don’t have to sell yourself off to some trust-funder son of a god. You can turn the tables, buy yourself a boy toy.”

    “Yes, I suppose I could,” Mrs. Dervain said, smiling, “but I would regard it as yet another failure of imagination…”

    Comment by ktismatics — 6 April 2012 @ 10:30 am

  47. I see that Velmans’ second edition is available through interlibrary loan, so I’ll give it a look when I clear out some of the other books stacking up next to my chair.

    Comment by ktismatics — 6 April 2012 @ 10:40 am

  48. ” Mrs Dervain said, smiling” hmmm you don’t eschew adjectival qualifications to your he said/she saids like Elmore Leonard (eschews them). Sometimes that cool. I see Mrs Dervain as Maggie Smith – smiling ‘wanly’. Larry MacMurtry always gets me that way – and I love some of his stuff (though when I think of it, apart from Lonesome Dove and … forgot what) – His dialogue and descriptions of characters mannerisms evoke movie stars rather than original characters, so he could almost save himself the trouble of adding mannerisms (i.e. character) to his characters by just giving a cast list at the beginning of his books.

    Enjoy Velmans.

    These clips above aren’t ‘creation stories’ exactly; they’re to my mind an interestingly elaborate variation on making up stories involving old myths and symbols.

    I don’t recommend anyone look too hard for the sense in them (apart from the Thunderbolts one, but you’re better reading the intro to Donald Scott’s book on the Thunderbolts website – that IS serious stuff); I just searched through them several times to try and find the explanation myself. There’s an explanation of sorts at 1 hour and 3 mins into Remembering the End of the World, but it tactfully avoids some difficult issues – like how anyone lived through it, or how anyone was alive in the first place with the Earth revolving around Saturn, which he seems to place very close to us, with Mars and Venus in between, so it must have been close to the Sun….

    I just found these vids online a few days ago. I saw them once on dvd years ago. I was already familiar with some of their take on things from the Thunderbolts website and newsletter, but I usually just read the Electric stuff. I found the dvds a bit boring and underwhelming, but I didn’t realise how incoherent they are. Still, if you don’t expect too much the graphics are pretty good, and it’s a new slant on things.

    Comment by lafayettesennacherib — 6 April 2012 @ 3:48 pm

  49. I swear I hadn’t read your new post when I made my remark about adjectives above. Funny that.

    Comment by lafayettesennacherib — 6 April 2012 @ 4:00 pm

  50. I provide no physical description of Mrs. Dervain, so I’m interested in your mental image of her based on this excerpt. Imperious, reserved, but I think not so fussy; rather more elegant, even alluring — at least that’s how I see her. I’d rather have her smiling than scowling here, but it’s not an embarrassed or contemptuous smile. Maybe something even more direct: “Yes, I considered it,” she said without smiling… or “I’m afraid you wouldn’t meet my criteria, Mr. Hanley.” I think she wouldn’t be quite so self-revealing though, at least not yet.

    Comment by ktismatics — 6 April 2012 @ 5:32 pm

  51. Mrs. D isn’t a prude, but she’s also not particularly lascivious. She’s looking for something different. She doesn’t want to buy a boy toy for the same reason she’s not prepared to settle for reducing the gods to aristocrats: it’s too obvious, too ordinary.

    Comment by ktismatics — 7 April 2012 @ 8:39 am

  52. ADVERBS, of course! How COULD I? Pardon moi. Here’s Elmore Leonard’s rules for writers. ” Using adverbs is a mortal sin”

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/feb/24/elmore-leonard-rules-for-writers

    Comment by lafayettesennacherib — 7 April 2012 @ 3:16 pm

  53. “Yes, I suppose I could,” Mrs. Dervain said, smiling, “but I would regard it as yet another failure of imagination…”

    She sounds like a character that would be played by Jessica Tandy or some such aging character actress in Halliwud, a virtuous individual in the midst of her opulence and privilege. All of us would like to reach that ideal: rich but wise. The French name only heightens that impression.

    Comment by Post-Continental Satyr — 7 April 2012 @ 4:26 pm

  54. It’s curious that you both translate text into film. Mrs. Dervain married into her money, and apparently she received a favorable divorce settlement when her husband replaced her with a younger model. I don’t have a picture of who might play her on screen, but I’d say that she is fortyish, stylish, beautiful, interested in religion not for virtue but for theosis. By the end of this novel she is collaborating with a much younger woman to establish an artists’ foundation and syndicate, to be financed by the systematic extortion of rich people covertly filmed en flagrante in dalliances with attractive young daughters and sons of men.

    Comment by ktismatics — 7 April 2012 @ 5:29 pm

  55. Actually I didn’t instantly think of Jessica Tandy, I thought of YOU – that this character has a lot of your stoic decency in the face of moral corruption. (But then Tandy’s character in DRIVING MISS DAISY had a lot of that too)

    Comment by Post-Continental Satyr — 7 April 2012 @ 7:32 pm

  56. “Madame Bovary, c’est moi!”

    Comment by ktismatics — 7 April 2012 @ 7:50 pm

  57. Levi Bryant has now written a short post about Neuropath, calling it “one of the most intellectually thought-provoking novels I’ve read in years.” “I don’t know that I agree with Bakker,” Levi writes, “though I also don’t know that I have an argument against his claims.” I don’t understand why so many people think The Argument in Neuropath is so airtight; I note several serious flaws in this post and my first few comments on the thread. He links to Shaviro’s review, but not to my post, and not to Mark Fisher’s article. If you google “Neuropath” and look at the blog results, my post comes up on page one; Shaviro’s, on page two. Maybe Shaviro and Bryant had a recent email conversation about the book.

    UPDATE: But if you google “Neuropath Review” you find Shaviro’s piece second from the top. OK then.

    SECOND UPDATE: Nope, the link on Bryant’s post takes you to a google results page for the search string “Neuropath Shaviro,” so he was looking specifically for it. That the Larval Subjects post doesn’t directly link the Pinocchio Theory piece suggests that maybe Bryant never actually clicked onto Shaviro’s review.

    Comment by ktismatics — 5 November 2012 @ 2:24 pm


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